Uncle Frank’s Sacrifice

Yesterday I learned quite a bit more about my Uncle Frank. Mom and I drove over to Santa Rosa and met up with her cousin Marilyn and find out more about Frank E. Denham’s history and gathered additional photos.

Frank E Denham circa sometime around 1915.

Frank E Denham circa sometime around 1915.

I am not a genealogy nerd. My aunt Betty does some research about the family and I am always happy to listen. However, I do not derive much of my identify from my ancestors. Nonetheless, I have found my Great Grandpa Albert Denham quite interesting. He came out to California in the late 1800s from the Missouri Territory. Then went back to Oklahoma for the land rush and then returned to the Fulton area near Santa Rosa, California in 1900. Family lore is that he said, “No land is worth shooting a man over.” (Implying this was the only way you could hang on to land in the Rush.) He was very conservative father to his daughters viewing both high school and dances as two great morally corrupting influences.  Come to think of it, his wife Nancy Elizabeth (Lizzie) must have had some gumption too as she traveled with him through these adventures having children along the way. At least there was a railroad by 1869.

Frank was Albert’s only son and looks like him in many ways. He was being groomed for working the family farm alongside his dad. Been reading about Germany’s machinations to distract the US from joining the Allies by ginning up conflicts with Mexico and Japan or both together. Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram is a non-fiction that reads like a great spy novel. The British come off looking competent, the Wilson administration not so much. This explains why after Uncle Frank was drafted he was first sent to Mexico and then to Britain and ultimately to the front in France.

I learned from staff at the Oddfellows/Santa Rosa Cemetery that Frank was not buried until July 1921, a full three years after his death in France. They surmise that he was buried in a temporary mass grave until they could eventually ship him home. He was the first of the fallen sons of Santa Rosa to be returned. The article in the Press Democrat mentioned city flags would fly at half-mast, businesses would close and full military honors would be presented at his funeral. I hope it brought some comfort to his parents and sisters at the time.

Part of me really wishes he had lived and imagines how our family history might have changed. Then again, knowing my grandparents tumultuous at times relationship, my Mom might not have been born and so on. So best to trust in Providence.

Visiting his grave also gave me more information to aid in identifying where he might have fallen in battle.

Frank's gravestone in Oddfellow's cemetary in Santa Rosa CA

Frank’s gravestone in Oddfellow’s cemetary in Santa Rosa CA

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